• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Back to nature after a disabling condition

February 25, 2018

When Michael Rybak began to have trouble moving his arms, he feared his days of enjoying the outdoors may be over. But his team at Mayo Clinic was able to diagnosis and successfully treat his rare condition. Now he's back to doing what he loves.


Michael Rybak is an avid photographer, kayaker, scuba diver and whale watcher who moved to Hawaii from Minnesota six years ago because of his love of the ocean.

The Maui resident is part of a research organization that monitors humpback whale populations. More than 10,000 of these whales fill the waters between Maui and Molokai from December through March to mate, give birth and care for their newborn calves.

"We motor into a designated area, spot whales and do photo identification that will be used for tracking migration and behavioral patterns," Michael says. "At the same time, we do health assessments, particularly looking for entanglement damage from fishing gear and other debris. If we find a whale that's entangled, our team will use the latest whale rescue equipment to free it."

For a time, Michael worried his participation in this important work might end when a mysterious illness led to severely restricted mobility in both of his arms. But thanks to care at Mayo Clinic, Michael has regained his health, and he's excited to be part of the expeditions once again. Read the rest of Michael's story.
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This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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